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Spain extradites pilot to Argentina for alleged role in 'Dirty War'

The Spanish government on Thursday extradited pilot Julio Alberto Poch to Argentina to face trial for his alleged role in the nation's 1976-83 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Poch was a navy officer at Argentina's Naval Mechanics School [backgrounder, in Spanish], one of the most notorious detention centers of the military dictatorship, and is believed to have piloted flights known as "death flights," which were used to dump the military junta's political opponents into the Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean. Poch holds dual Dutch and Argentine citizenship, which had protected him from earlier attempts at extradition, but he was arrested and imprisoned last September when he landed in Valencia while en route to the Netherlands. A Spanish court agreed to his extradition [JURIST report] in January, finding that there are adequate measures in place to guarantee that Poch will receive a fair trial in Argentina. Poch continues to deny the charges against him [AP report] and faces a Friday court hearing.

Earlier this week, former Argentine military junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was charged [JURIST report] with an additional 49 counts of murder, kidnapping, and torture for crimes allegedly committed during Argentina's Dirty War. The charges are the latest in the ongoing investigation against Videla, who led Argentina as de facto president from from 1976 to 1981. Last month, a federal court in Argentina sentenced [JURIST report] former president and military general Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses during his 1982 to 1983 presidency. During the Dirty War, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents.

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